It could be said the word “WORK” has been misunderstood forever. Its neither a location or something to do with business only endeavours but a description of the product or effort applied to deliver an output. The current virus outbreak is encouraging us to reset historical perspectives on the nature of WORK and perform a cultural reset, with work for many shifting from the defined confines of a corporate address and instead to a location neutral “output” delivered wherever the employee or customer may be.
The effective use of digital platforms is key to a successful remote employee and customer experience when it delivers the value expected by both parties. This is hardly new, with evidence daily of the value of digital collaboration and engagement platforms used to bridge geographical, social boundaries, for human engagement and access to services based on our use of social media platforms every day. However, the use of remote user, remote access and digital collaboration platforms as a critical success factor of business continuity through this time of unknown unknowns may result in some organisations determining existing processes, platforms, security and governance are insufficient.
There are number of steps organisations should consider to ensure they are well positioned through this challenging time and continue to deliver a positive employee and customer experience. Firstly, ensure the lines of communication are clear with corporate guidelines explaining the approved way to perform company activities using remote or digital platforms. Simplicity is everything and organisations must strive to simplify user engagement via corporate digital collaboration platforms to make them as easy to use as the social media platforms accessed regularly by users. Simplicity is also key to successfully crossing the cultural adoption chasm. The creation and publication of easy on-boarding or quick start guides for users (and potentially customers) to reduce the load on helpdesk teams and to encourage self service should be available to all.
The network will play a massive role in the success of any remote worker, digital collaboration or remote user engagement programme. It’s important to check the network capacity, availability and resilience of inbound communication links to ensure sufficient bandwidth exists with latency optimised based on the unforeseen increased volume of remote users and external customer interaction. Increased use of video conferencing may place additional loads on networks via links previously not used meaning a thorough review of user paths, devices, workstyles and engagement expectations will deliver real value (consider how a user works, not how the network “should” operate). This may require discussions with telecommunications carriers from an operational and contractual perspective to gain confidence the user and customer experience delivered remotely is not sub-optimal and positive.
Remote access VPNs (virtual private networks) and digital conferencing platforms for both users and customer are in use today but a short term cultural shift may be required to use them as the primary engagement mechanism. Additional levels of employee guidance and potentially customer facing communication to convey the best way to maximise engagement and customer satisfaction via a predominantly digital engagement method should benefit all.
If remote access or conferencing platforms of the scale required do not currently exist or capacity augmentation is required it is straightforward to on-board functionality via cloud based VPNs, collaboration and remote access solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing platforms with minimal levels of reconfiguration required (consider the operational overhead or security impact). One button meeting join / start whether desk, mobile or other device is used is essential.
Security as expected must be at the heart of all remote employee and customer engagement. It’s important to issue security related policy guidelines explaining how to conduct business via remote or digital platforms to ensure both organisations employees and customers are protected (for example discussions about session recording). Security is best delivered “built in by design”, automated and requiring minimal user interaction.
In summary remote user and customer engagement using digital remote access, collaboration or conferencing platforms can deliver and maintain a positive customer experience through this challenging time. However, organisations must prepare well (in an accelerated timeframe) and operationally configure platforms to ensure this different way of working is as is simple, secure, seamless and beneficial as any previous way of working. And who knows, for many positive reasons aligned to work life balance in the digital age, the current challenge may signpost opportunities and benefits that help us to make this new way of working “the” way of working for many more in the future.
Until next time.
Business Line CTO Computacenter UK (Networking and Security)
The British are famous for being quite reserved, at times cynical and in the views of many not that good at celebrating success. However all of that changed a fortnight ago when London 2012 captivated the nation. In the worlds of Lord Coe “we did it right”, and how we did it right. But the countrywide euphoria and team GB success wasn’t the only high point, “the Network worked”.
I must admit that I hoped it would but still feared the worst. This was set to be the “Digital games” and at times I joined the many prophets of doom prior to the Olympics with forecasts of network slowdowns due to the volume of standard and high definition video expected across worldwide networks. But like “Y2K” and many of the previous “digital Armageddon’s” nothing untoward happened. The digital universe underpinned by the Internet and mobilised by the new wave of highly interactive mobile users, watched, snapped (digital photos), streamed (video, online content) and “shared” when they wanted to – how they wanted to. And the Network just “worked”.
The recent figures released from the BBC are compelling and surely throw down the gauntlet for the Olympics in Rio 2016.
55m (global) and 37m (UK) browsers to the BBC Sport site in total across the Games (with the previous record for a single day was 7.4m global and 5.7m UK). And the records continued to tumble with 106m overall requests for BBC Olympic video content, more than double seen for any previous events. And let’s not forget our “on the movers” with 34% of the daily users mobile browsers with 12m requests for video from mobiles. I cant end this BBC digital roundup without mentioning my daughters favourite, “the BBC Red Button” with 23.7m viewers to the 24 SD, HD and Freeview streams throughout the Games, and every single stream seeing at least 100,000 viewers.
This leads me to a recent enlightening meeting with Jeremy Wallis the UK CTO of Netapp with discussions of the pervasiveness of 10Gb Ethernet as an enabler of simple, high performance storage connectivity. Checking back to the BBC figures, 2.8 petabytes of content was requested across the Olympics, with the peak traffic moment occurring when Bradley Wiggins won Gold with over 700 Gb/s. This is a sounding cry for those who forget to place storage and the network hand in hand.
Away from the anecdotes the hard numbers highlight the “network” took everything thrown at it across the Olympics period and more and just delivered. It even endorsed a working approach we have dabbled with from the earliest network “connected” environments – remote home & teleworking. Who can forget those empty central London streets and congestion free trains and UK PLC on mass where possible “working from home” (ok, maybe the park on a tablet computer). The remote access and corporate connectivity platforms seamlessly handled not just the existing corporate remote worker pool but also the short term “Olympic home worker” pool without a hiccup – surely heralding a new dawn in organisational approaches to redress the work life balance.
And what now, do we applaud gleefully the magical performance of global networks and shrink back into the “old way” of doing things. I suggest not, as the digital template delivered and embraced for the 2012 Olympics has surely proved the network is not only here to stay but is now a fundamental part of who we are.
Maybe those 70s and 80s SciFi films weren’t that far off the mark after all.
Until next time